Friday, November 20, 2009

November 19, 2009 Day 4

Today we completed another caterpillar observation on the Day 4 page of our journals. We made our observations as young scientists, trying our best to draw what we saw inside the rearing boxes. Teacher: What do you see today? What do you observe the caterpillars doing? What can you draw that will help you remember what it looks like right now? As they worked, kindergartners talked about their observations with their peers and teachers.

We talked about the astronaut's first space walk today. We thought about how astronauts would be suited and tethered for their first spacewalk today. The caterpillars, however, would not be suited for a spacewalk out of the ISS as they are safely confined to their boxes. How does a caterpillar move around? On earth? In space? This is one of the questions the astronauts could try and answer in space while we understand it better on earth. We found out that caterpillars on earth "tether" themselves to whatever they are crawling across with a thread of silk produced near their "chins." Then, they crawl across it and attach to it with little hooks in their "feet." When the caterpillars walk across the plastic wrap window, we can easily see the "suction cup" feet and the 6 legs near the head of our caterpillars. In two of our containers we can see some silk the caterpillars are making on the sides.

We looked at photos from space posted on the website to see what the caterpillars are doing in space. We noticed that the caterpillars are "hanging on" and moving up and down across and through the food containers, just like they are doing in our classroom!
We were surprised they weren't floating. We think they are tethered like the astronauts are during a spacewalk. As we clicked through the photos, the children shared their observations: "Look! One is the color of a rainbow! How did that happen? Why aren't ours like that?" "Two are sleeping." "One is moving around a lot."

November 18, 2009 Day 3

It was a very busy day on earth-and in space! We watched NASA TV for a short time to understand how the shuttle was going to dock with the space station. We tuned in briefly later in the afternoon to see the astronauts on board the International Space Station. We were able to see Nicole at work at her computer and two other astronauts "floating" by!

During storytime today, we used childrens' reference books with eye-catching illustrations and interesting text to understand a little bit more about the ISS. In doing so, we read a little bit about suiting for a spacewalk, working in space, and came across information about using tethers, handholds, and footholds in space so things and people don't float away, including astronauts when they are spacewalking. A few photos led us to consider the differences in how astronauts sleep and eat while in space.

After learning that astronaut food is often prepared with dry ingredients, mixed with water, and slurped with a straw, we endeavored to make a snack that we could slurp through a straw. Thus, the Strawberry-Banana smoothie cooking project unfolded. Kindergartners prepared their own smoothies at the KinderCooks table, slicing chunks of banana and strawberries that were mixed with 6 oz of milk and blended into a flavored froth with a blender and a very patient parent helper! We had a lot of fun slurping our smoothies, astronaut-style.

November 17, 2009 Day 2

We will be learning more about the space shuttle and its crew of astronauts with daily updates from the Monarchs In Space website. Today we found out that the space shuttle is named Atlantis. The STS-129 Mission has an official logo; the astronauts of the STS-129 Mission wear the patch on their suits. We have a patch in the classroom to look at. The space shuttle is an orbiter. It is traveling around the earth, out in space. It is flying to the International Space Station called the ISS. and carrying equipment, tools, and parts for the space station in addition to experiments. One of their experiments is the caterpillar experiment that we know as Monarchs In Space.

The crew has a commander, a pilot, and mission specialists. They are all astronauts. They will fly the shuttle to the ISS to meet another astronaut who has been living on the ISS for two months. They will bring her home when they return to earth. On Wednesday, the space shuttle will meet the ISS and "dock" so the astronauts can board the space station. We have reference books, photos, and kindergartners' drawings in our classroom hanging above our "All About Space" table.

In addition, we have posted a calendar to count the days the caterpillars are in space, we have a posted a thermometer to measure the room temperature near the rearing boxes, we have pictures of the astronauts (the space-bound crew) and a class photo of kindergarten (the earth-bound crew) hanging by the table. Every morning a brief update about the upcoming day is posted.

Today in our journals, we explored how to put shapes together to represent our ideas of spaceships, real and imaginary.

November 16, 2009 Day 1 The Launch

9:30 am Kindergartners unpacked the rearing boxes this morning and positioned them on their sides on the observation table in our classroom. We made observations and the first entry in our journals. (Note: Though project protocol requires us to keep the caterpillars in complete darkness until the day the astronauts transfer the rearing chambers the ISS, we chose to keep our rearing chambers on the observation table during the time the kindergartners were in the room so they could make daily observations.) We have 4 rearing boxes; three with 3 caterpillars, one with 4 caterpillars. The observation table is in an area of the room that averages 70 degrees F/20 degrees C.

Today we observed several caterpillars on the milkweed "pesto" in the food boxes, several on the edges of the food boxes, and several on the "ceiling" of the box, being very still. A kindergartner noticed tiny rounds of caterpillar poop. This news spread like wildfire. Kindergartners remembered that we used the word "frass" in September when we observed monarch caterpillars in the terrarium. Kindergartners practiced making written records with drawings of their observations of the caterpillars.

2:00 pm Kindergarten was invited to the blue rug during cooperative play time to explore NASA's website page featuring NASA TV. Projected on to a screen in our room from the computer, live video from the launch site showed various angles of the space shuttle on the launch pad, mission control, computerized maps of the position of the International Space Station, and spectators. A few kindergartners showed up early to watch but at 2:20 pm, we gathered all kindergartners to watch the launch. It was very, very exciting. There was a buzz in the air as we saw the countdown at 1 minute 30 seconds...and then just before 2:28 pm, the final seconds, with the Atlantis crew in charge, we counted along: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...Lift-off!
"Monarchs are in space!" we cheered on the caterpillars and the astronauts. We watched as various cameras captured images of the first 11 minutes in space. Eyes were riveted to the screen until we had to pack up for dismissal.

November 13, 2009

With the Monarchs In Space project protocol as the guide , kindergartners worked in small groups with their teacher to assemble the rearing chambers with the appropriate items as seen in the directions. We talked about how we would make observations of our caterpillars in the classroom as the astronauts plan to do in space when they are aboard the International Space Station.

Kindergartners transferred the green food substance into the feeding boxes before they were glued into place. Inside the rearing boxes, two pieces of fabric were positioned at the top and bottom, and a small red container for nectar was adhered nearby. As we put the food substance into the feeding boxes, we talked about how we had made pesto with the basil leaves from our garden last month and how this caterpillar food could have been made the same way using milkweed, the food of the monarch caterpillar. After the caterpillars were gently moved with a tiny brush into the rearing boxes, the boxes were closed with plastic wrap and rubber bands.

November 12, 2009 (11:15 am)

A package was delivered to our classroom at 11:15 am. It was labeled "Fragile. Live Insects. Do Not Heat or Freeze." The package was addressed to Kindergarten so we knew without a doubt it was ours. The return address said "Monarch Watch." We agreed that inside were probably the caterpillars for the Monarchs In Space project. We shrieked with excitement as we gathered to look inside.. We opened the box and examined the contents. Inside, we found tiny, tiny caterpillars in small containers, hanging upside down on a green substance. We found other containers as well, filled to the top with the green substance that did not have caterpillars inside. Some children thought that the green substance could be caterpillar food. Other children recognized the caterpillars because of their yellow, white, and black stripes and explained to others that they were indeed, monarch caterpillars. The green substance, if it was food, was probably milkweed.

November 12, 2009 (9:00 am)

After a two month journey learning about the migration of our Monarch butterflies to overwintering sites in central Mexico, children began their today perplexed and very, very, curious. "Great news!" the morning message read, "Monarch caterpillars are going to outer space!" The children's curiosity led to an animated exchange of ideas at circle time:

Kindergartners: Monarch caterpillars can't go to outer space. Monarch caterpillars can't fly. They don't have wings. Caterpillars become butterflies and butterflies have wings. Maybe monarch butterflies are going to outer space? No, the morning message said that monarch caterpillars are going to space. Oh! I get it-a spaceship! They could go in a space ship! No, caterpillars can't drive spaceships, they're caterpillars. They can't turn steering wheels. Oh! They could just ride in a spaceship.

Teacher: How?

Kindergarten: Astronauts! They could ride in a spaceship with astronauts!

After the children arrived at this understanding by sharing their own ideas based on what they already know, we talked about the email we received about a project called Monarchs In Space. We had been invited, we explained, to join the project and learn about the changes in a caterpillar's metamorphosis to a butterfly on earth while astronauts, who will fly in the space shuttle to the International Space Station, do the same in space. We explained that we had to give Monarch Watch an answer immediately and so we had already replied to Monrach Watch. The kindergartners were glad we had said "Yes!" to the project invitation. Now we are eagerly anticipating the shipment of caterpillars and caterpillar food from Monarch Watch.